Tottenham Hotspur vs Norwich City, Monday 9th April, White Hart Lane, 3pm kick off
THFC1882 is pleased to welcome back Ciaran Griggs for his preview of the game against Norwich.
I’m going to start this preview by reminiscing. For those who recall, the reverse leg of this fixture against Norwich in December was held in a happier, more enjoyable time in Spurs’ season. It was the start of the “Bale Experiment”. Gareth, in his pomp, roamed across the pitch, terrifying defenders and midfielders alike as we eased to a 2-0 victory (it should have been more). Who needs positions and defined roles? We were unstoppable, we were rampant, we were TITLE CHALLENGERS. “MIND THE GAP!!” was screamed from the stands, it was plastered all over Twitter and Facebook. Let’s stop the season now, there’s no chance that we can be caught…
…So as we approach the return leg, at home to Norwich on Monday afternoon, on the back of a dismal March, only just ahead in the race for 3rd place, with our expectations only slightly raised by the 3-1 home victory over Swansea and a 0-0 draw away to Sunderland in April. Largely, the feeling is that our season is teetering, that we stand at the precipice. On one side stands 3rd place, the FA Cup and glory. On the other stands 5th place and an(other) average season. Which way do we go? Newcastle, Chelsea and Arsenal are all breathing down our necks. Where do we go from here?
A quick analysis of our opponent’s position offers us hope. Norwich are 12th with 40 points achieved in their first season back in the Premiership. They have acquitted themselves well in that first season with Paul Lambert receiving many plaudits for their style of play. As with all teams in their first season though, now that safety is achieved, there should be a tendency towards some complacency, with results dipping and a lack of concentration. In their last outing, they managed to fight back to 2-2 after twice being behind to a strong Everton team. The team performance however, was a bit behind the result, with individual ability rather than strong team play leading to their goals. Their front line, as usual, was led capably by Grant Holt. A man full of effort and determination, Holt typifies the concept of someone making 100% use of what ability they have been given, supplemented with hard work. Their players are less glamorous, less high profile than our own, so should the team spark be lost, they have less to fall back on. This is not to take away from what is a great team ethic and style of play that Lambert has built. It is merely to point out that their personnel dictates that they have less in their locker than an established team like Tottenham.
What do Spurs have to bring to the table? Should we be optimistic? Yes, I think. The Swansea game was a very good performance and only the Manchester teams have more points in the PL than Sunderland since MON took over. Gareth has, largely, returned to his berth on the left-hand side, and we look more solid through the centre of the pitch, whether we are playing Modric + 1 DM or 2 DM in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Given this will be our 2nd game in 2 days, we should see some changes from the team that played on Saturday. I expect that VdV will be dropped and we will switch to a 4-4-2 formation. Lennon is returning to match fitness and this game represents the perfect opportunity to give him a start. I’m not the only Spurs fan, surely, who will relish the prospect of seeing our “wing wizards” start a game together for the first time in a long time. This is only enhanced by the fact that Norwich’s first choice right-back, our very own Kyle Naughton, is ineligible to play due to PL loan rules. My hope is that with 2 wingers, we go big with 2 strikers, Ade and Defoe for this writer, but I expect that Harry fancies Saha to pair with Ade at the moment. We should look to overwhelm them, and quickly. Our central midfield pairing will need to take control of the game quickly, so that we can feed the wingers and thus create opportunities for the strikers. Sandro did not have the best of matches against Sunderland and Parker has looked tired as the season has dragged on. I think that Jake can do a job against opposition like this. He’s been a vastly improved player this season and has worked hard on the defensive side of his game. Allied with that, he has a range of passing that is beyond what most expect of a player in that role. The key word in that sentence is passing. One noticeable feature of our downturn in form is the number of passes that have gone awry in key moments. I don’t have a pass completion stat for you, because they are generally fairly meaningless as no weighting is given to the area / type of pass. Suffice to say, I think our key pass % would be vastly reduced compared to Nov – Feb this season. If we can get our passing improved, deliver balls from wide areas to a strong front two with their shooting boots on, we should have a Bank Holiday Monday to celebrate.
I can’t see anything other than a replica of the match from December, so 2-0 to Spurs. I’m going to eschew the traditional practise of predicting goalscorers. What I will predict though is that our wingers will play a key part in both roles, with pace and guile confusing some static canaries.
Ciaran (@LordFIMM on Twitter)
Today’s Opponent view is from Sam Jermy.
Sam is a journalism student at Sunderland University who is from the East coast of Norfolk. He has been a Norwich City fan for nearly 15 years. His favourite players in that time include the gap-toothed Welsh centre forward Iwan Roberts and the electrifyingly quick attacker Darren Huckerby. They both helped Norwich storm the nationwide division one title in 2004 and even though Norwich lost out on penalties, Sam counts seeing Roberts score at the Millennium stadium at Cardiff in 2002 as special. He has always admired the consistency of Adam Drury in his 11yrs service at the club and says he is still Norwich City’s best left-back. A testimonial at home to Scottish champions Celtic is well deserved. Last but not least, the current number 9 Grant Holt is fast becoming a cult hero amidst his 70-odd goals in a Norwich shirt. Hop on Twitter and give him a follow @SamJermy
Easter Monday will see Tottenham Hotspur entertain Norwich City at the Lane and with the away side all but mathematically safe they can afford to turn up to North London and enjoy themselves. I know the loyal fans in the ‘Yellow Army’ will really savour the day, as many will remember we were losing away at Tranmere Rovers just two years ago. After a great battling point against Everton on Saturday the Canaries have reached that magical 40 point mark and it would not be too dramatic to say our season is virtually over as we have already achieved the one and only target of premiership survival and another year at footballs top table.
The onus will certainly be on Spurs to turn up, perform, and collect the three points. I am guessing that is what many Tottenham supporters will be expecting more than hoping as the race for a Champions League place and the North London bragging rights are still very much at stake.
However, these circumstances could well mix together and conspire against Harry Redknapp’s men. Norwich have performed admirably against the ‘big’ teams so far this season but aside from beating Newcastle and draws against Liverpool and Chelsea they haven’t really got that one eye-catching result that invariably happens throughout a rigorous campaign. By rights Spurs should comfortably beat us but if we get to half time without a mountain to climb I would fancy City to grab a result.
A lot has been made of Grant Holt this season and I know that he polarises opinion throughout the countries pundits and supporters. All I will say is that in the three seasons he has been a canary he hasn’t stop scoring and with 15 goals to his name in 2011/12 coupled with Rooney and Bent ruled out of the first Euro 2012 games then he has to be considered for a call-up. That is testament to how far Holt has come as it was only 3 years ago he led Shrewsbury to the League 2 play-offs! A Swedish TV station brilliantly described him as a “Strength of a Buffalo with the touch of a ballerina” recently and I am glad that some people can see he is more than a burly Cumbrian who wins free-kicks and penalties. He can finish and he can also run all day…he is a very fit lad despite the doubters. If Paul Lambert keeps Holt in the side and resists the temptation to make wholesale changes then the Spurs defence could be in for an uncomfortable afternoon.
Another consistent star performer this season has been John Ruddy. He has been a big player for Norwich, with a string of fines saves and important stops winning us many valuable points. The one game that sticks out in my mind is when Ruddy stopped just about everything against Liverpool at Anfield. At the relatively young age of 25, he is a future England goalkeeper, and some may argue he should be one of the three men who go to Euro 2012. Watch this space.
Many thanks for Ciaran and Sam for spending the time to do the preview’s for us.
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